In 1986 some of the biggest names in Black Music united to help in the effort to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. birthday declared a national holiday. King’s youngest son Dexter Scott King spearheaded the assemblage of what would become The King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew.
Vocalists El DeBarge, Whitney Houston, Stacy Lattisaw, Lisa Lisa with Full Force, Teena Marie, Menudo, New Edition and James “J.T.” Taylor were joined by some of rap’s finest, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Run–D.M.C. and Whodini.
The resulting song, “King Holiday” was composed by Phillip Jones, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Bill Adler. The song peeked a # 30 on Billboard Hot Black Singles chart and all proceeds went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
A lot has happened in the years since “King Holiday” was recorded. Dr. King now has a monument on the National Mall in D.C. and America has elected its first African-American President. But what of the people who participated in the “King Holiday” movement ? Where are they now?
On the strength of his success with the group Debarge, El struck out on his solo career in 1986, releasing his self-titled debut. The single “Who’s Johnny” was featured in the movie Short Circuits, but that was where the album peaked. El released another album in 1989 but it wasn’t until Quincy Jones’s “Secret Garden” in 1990 that El began to feel the love again. Unfortunately, a battle with drugs derailed his career and led to time in prison. However, upon his release in 2009 El saw a resurgence in popularity thanks to public appearances like the BET Awards. His album Second Chance was released in November of 2010 and was nominated for two Grammys.
Darren “The Human Beat Box” Robinson, also known as “Buffy,” died on December 10, 1995 at the age of 28 from a heart attack. While many blamed his weight of 450lbs, it wasn’t the DIRECT cause of death. Prince Markie Dee told TheUrbandaily in 2010: “Buff died on accident. His heart did not just give out on him, he fell. Buff was so big that he couldn’t lie down. His weight would close his windpipe and he couldn’t breathe. He had to sleep sitting up. His heart went into overdrive and he suffered a massive heart attack because he fell. If he wouldn’t have fallen, he would be alive right now.”
Markie Dee is a radio host in Florida and Vice-President of Uncle Louie Music Group. Kool Rock Ski dropped most of his weight after seeing himself in Disorderlies. Both have toured with Doug E. Fresh filling in for the Human Beat Box.
The super group produced and wrote music for UTFO, Doctor Ice, Samantha Fox, Patti LaBelle, Jasmine Guy, The Force M.D.s, and even more recently Britney Spears and Rihanna. They also appeared on Lil Kim’s 2002 album La Bella Mafia on the track “You Can’t Fuck With The Queen Bee.”
But most of their fans still remember them for their hilarious turn in the classic House Party where they repeatedly told Kid “Chris” Martin, “We’ll kick your f*ckin aaaaas”
Grandmaster Melle Mel
This hip-hop pioneer and founding member of the Furious Five was the first rapper to call himself “Master of Ceremonies.” On March 12, 2007, Melle Mel and The Furious Five (joined by DJ Grandmaster Flash) became the first rap group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010 Melle Mel joined forces with Grandmaster Caz, Grandwizzard Theodore to help relaunch the Sedgwick and Cedar clothing line dedicated to hip-hop’s pioneers.
In ’86 Whitney Houston was a media darling. Her debut album was called Rolling Stone’s best album of 1986 and she made her acting debut in 1992 in The Bodyguard. In that same year she married founding member of New Edition, Bobby Brown and they eventually had one child together, Bobby Kristina. The couple’s unlikely union was wrought with drug use rumors and was chronicled in the 2004 reality show “Being Bobby brown.” They filed for divorce in 2006.
Whitney Houston died tragically on February 11, 2012. She was found dead in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills Hotel the night before The Grammys. She made her final film appearance in the remake of “Sparkle,” released later that year.